Iphigenia in Tauris
Few works can have such purchase on our contemporary concerns as Goethes Iphigenia. The endless bloodletting of the plays prehistory, the desperate cycle of outrage followed by acts of retribution that fuel the flames, the plays understanding of the notion of sacrifice that conjoins the sacred and the violent into a poisonous brew all these preoccupations speak with incomparable urgency to us today . . . Roy Pascals translation, twice produced on BBC radio but never published until now, is a matchless example of German poetry rendered into English by a master. MARTIN SWALES in his Introduction and Preface Goethes Iphigenia in Tauris stands the Iphigenia-Orestes story as treated by Euripides, Aeschylus and Racine on its head. The serene rhythms and harmony of his blank verse make it the ideal vehicle for this finely wrought spiritual drama. Iphigenia, daughter of Agamemnon, leader of the Greek forces in the Trojan War, in exile as a priestess in the barbaric land of the Tauri (Crimea), breaks the Tantalid family curse. By her own unaided human efforts she saves the life of her brother Orestes who has murdered his mother because she has murdered his father, at the same time she enables him to expiate his crime. The female identity of the central character is all-important. It is uniquely her voice, against all the other voices which are male, that brings resolution not by preaching values but by the visceral force of belief in the rightness of the language of the heart.
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